Published today on The Mercury online website
Greens pair go first class
SUE NEALES - May 04, 2010 07:50am
"GREENS Leader Nick McKim will soon be driven around Tasmania by a government chauffeur in a plush limousine.
The new Human Services Minister yesterday announced he would take up the offer of a luxury ministerial Holden Statesman Caprice, with a personal driver, for "safety and workload" reasons.
Mr McKim's Greens colleague, partner and new Cabinet Secretary Cassy O'Connor will also have her own fuel-guzzling limousine and driver.
The cars come complete with TV screens, phones, email and computer screens.
Mr McKim also announced yesterday he and Ms O'Connor would be moving into new ministerial offices in the waterfront Marine Board Building, with first-class views.
Mr McKim, who holds five ministries in the landmark Labor-Greens Bartlett Cabinet, and Ms O'Connor, will also share an extra 10 ministerial staff between them.
The latest round of perks for Mr McKim and Ms O'Connor not showered on their three non-Cabinet Greens colleagues come in addition to their new elevated ministerial salaries.
Mr McKim, 44, will now earn $217,161 a year as a minister in the Labor-Greens Government and Ms O'Connor, 42, a salary of $168,149 as Cabinet Secretary.
In common with the other seven ministers, Ms O'Connor and Mr McKim will also be provided with a second taxpayer-funded car each for their own personal use.
Two years ago, Mr McKim rejected the offer of a chauffeur-driven car when made Greens leader, on the grounds it was an unnecessary luxury, a waste of public resources and unfriendly to the environment.
But Mr McKim said yesterday the Government had already allocated two of its ministerial cars and drivers to him and Ms O'Connor when they became Cabinet members.
The Greens' party-room meeting yesterday endorsed their decision to accept the ministerial vehicles "on road safety and workload grounds".
Mr McKim said he had discussed the issue with Premier David Bartlett, with the Department of Premier and Cabinet prepared to assess an alternative range of low-emission vehicles for potential inclusion in the ministerial fleet once current vehicles become due for replacement.
"In recognition of the increased workload due to ministerial portfolio responsibilities, plus road-safety concerns, the Greens' party room has supported both Ms O'Connor and me using ministerial vehicles when undertaking our ministerial duties," Mr McKim said.
"Neither of us intends to regularly use ministerial vehicles for short trips around Hobart."
Mr McKim said the 10 new staff, advisers and office administrators were no more than any other government minister was entitled to."